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How much salt is too much?

health-and-fitness Updated: May 29, 2011 15:36 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Hindustan Times
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Recommended salt intake: On an average, people eat 5-6 grams of salt a day. Ideally, we should not consume more than 2.5gms (about ½ tspn) salt a day to minimise the risks associated with high salt intake. Consuming too much salt leads to increase in fluid level in body and raises the blood pressure. High blood pressure predisposes us to heart disease. This additional pressure injures arteries that transport blood and blocks them with fatty deposits. Too much salt intake doubles the risk of stomach cancer and aggravates symptoms of asthma. It is also detrimental for bone health.

Convenience foods like fast food are often loaded with salt. Eating too much salt leads to calcium excretion in the urine which in turns increases the risk of osteoporosis. Women should eat less salt as it causes water retention in the body a week before menstruation. Body tends to retain water to dilute sodium concentration to a healthier level. As a result, there is reduced urination and the body becomes bloated. We do not notice most of the salt in our diet as it is put while preparing and processing procedures.

SaltTips to reduce salt intake

* Go through nutritional information on labels carefully and select low-salt options.

* Put less salt while cooking and completely avoid adding extra salt to food at the table. Taste for salt is acquired and we can gradually get used to eating less salt in our food.

* Replace salty snacks like potato wafers, farsans with fruit and vegetables.

* Limit usage of salty foods like cheese, ready to eat meals and processed foods.

* Limit intake of cooking sauces and seasonings like soy, chili, salad dressings and mustard sauce which are loaded with salt.

* Consume potassium-rich fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, white potatoes, spinach, bananas, lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, and lima beans as they minimize harmful effect of sodium on blood pressure.

How to nullify a salty meal
* For those who have given into a salty meal or found it hard to resist pickle, papads, chutney, here are ways to reverse the effect.
* Keep a gap of 4-6 hours at least between salty meals.
* Drink 4-6 glasses of water (during this gap) or 2 glasses of coconut water or a glass of tomato juice (unsalted). This will help eliminate extra sodium from your body.
* Walk briskly for 30 minutes. This will eliminate the extra sodium through your sweat.
* For your next meal simply eat a salad consisting of diced cucumber, tomatoes, ½ an apple, grated carrots and ½ a pomegranate.
* Do not add any salt to this salad.
* Try to reduce the use of salt gradually. It takes two to three weeks for your taste buds to adjust to eating less salt after which you will learn to enjoy food with less salt.

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.